Congratulations! You have taken the first step along your path to becoming a martial artist: deciding to do it. Now you just have to find the right school, one that will help you and the budding martial artists in your family make the most of the journey.
Finding the right school can be a daunting task. Many families chose schools based on location, or financial costs, or advertisements, or recommendations. All of those are fine reasons to visit a potential school, but once inside, you need to take the time to get a feel for the school before you sign up. Signing up for martial arts is a committment, but a rewarding one that will benefit the artists in your family for years to come. You should take the time to shop around, just as you would for any quality service. So, with that in mind, here are ten questions you should ask of any martial arts school you are considering.
1. How much should I expect to pay for classes?
This is the first question anyone asks before committing to a program. While it is a necessary question, the answer has less bearing on your decision than you might think. Each martial arts school will have a standard of pricing, but each school will also have different requirements for payments. Some require an up-front payment which covers all costs for a certain period of training. Others allow for an installment plan or monthly payments. Most schools will have several options. You need to know ahead of time what you are comfortable paying within your budget. And be sure to ask about potentially hidden costs, like uniform and equipment fees, testing and tournament registrations, or membership fees. Also ask if the school has any discounts for paying up front or multiple members joining. A good school will share all of these costs quickly and without reservation.
2. How many classes can I and should I take each week to become a talented martial artist?
This is an easy question, but it has many levels depeding on your goals. If your primary goal is to improve fitness and flexibility, you should follow the national recommendations for exercise and attend three classes a week. Each class will contain elements of cardio, strength, and flexibility training, so you will be well on your way to improved cardiovasular health in a fun and engaging way. However, if your goal is to become a talented martial artist, you need to come four or more times a week. When you check out a school, examine the schedule of classes very carefully. If a school only offers classes three times a week for your selected age and experience, it is not the school for you. Your lives are busy; you need to find a school that has more classes than you could possibly take in a week so that you have choice. Maybe your plan is to attend classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the school you are interested in has classes for you on those days. Yay! But what if you or your child is sick on Monday? Does that mean you will be short a class that week? Another consideration is the number of classes you are allowed to take each week. Some schools may limit you to a set number of sessions in a week or month, but what if you or your child becomes enthusiastic about your chosen martial art and wants to attend classes every day? Will your school allow that? If it does not, it is not the school for you. You need a school with a schedule that allows you to attend classes according to your lifestyle.
3. Can I watch my child and other students train?
This is an important consideration. If your child, and not you, is the student, where can you go to watch your child grow as an artist? A good school will have a seating area for visitors that allows for viewing without distractions. Young children taking martial arts might look to mom and dad every time they fall, evoking sympathy with crocodile tears. Those children need to train where they cannot influence their parents during a class, and where their parents cannot influence them. Visitors need to have a place where they can sit and watch and talk and laugh without causing a distraction to the instructors or students learning martial arts skills. A good school will have a viewing area separate from the training area but provide large windows so proud parents can watch and exclaim over their martial artists learning to jump and spin and kick. If a school does not allow you to watch the trainings, it is not the school for you. You are the parent; no one can tell you that you cannot watch your child.
4. Are classes led by Certified Instructors?
Remember, a martial arts school is still a school. Just as you wouldn't want to take a history class taught by someone pulled in off the street, you shouldn't take martial arts taught by someone who isn't certified. When you interview a school, you should ask about the certification of the instructors and what that certification entails. A Certified Instructor should have taken tests to show mastery of material, martial arts techniques, and teaching styles. Just because an instructor is an Nth degree blackbelt does not mean he or she knows how to train others safely and effectively. Martial arts are very physical activities with unfortunate potential for injury. Certified Instructors know how to run a class so that each student can improve his or her skill level all the while minimizing the chances of inury within a class. So, be sure to ask about the certification and training of instructors.
5. Who teaches the class?
This question is closely tied to the question of certification. However, while each class must have a Certified Instructor lead a class, some classes might be taught by instructors in training. This can actually be an exciting possibility because you or your artists might one day want to join the instructor ranks. You do not want to attend a school where all the classes are led by one instructor; you would only learn one perspective, one person's techniques. Variety is the spice of life, and a variety of instructors can help spice up your training. But keep in mind, even if your class is taught by an instructor in training, a Certified Instructor should be nearby, watching the class and helping where needed.